Clive Bailye, an arable farmer from Staffordshire has won the UK Soil Farmer of the Year, organised by Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (FCCT) and Innovation for Agriculture (IfA).
The inaugural competition aimed to find farmers and growers who were engaged with, and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supported productive agriculture, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and built soil organic matter and carbon.
Clive fought off stiff competition from a talented field of farmers and growers to take the top prize. The panel of judges which included scientists, industry experts, farmers and the project team were incredibly impressed not only by the standard of entries and the diversity of practices being trialled, but the resounding commitment of all entrants to soil management and continuous learning.
Clive Bailye is a large scale combinable crops farmer from Staffordshire, and has spent the last six years transforming the way that he farms to focus entirely on soil improvement. He has changed his cultivation strategy and his rotation which has resulted in the development of productive soils that are far less dependent on artificial inputs. This has also achieved financial savings for the business, making it more resilient against future risk and volatility.
David Gardener, IfA CEO explains, “Clive is a very worthy winner in a competition that included some of the country’s leading farmers. His comprehensive approach to managing soils susceptible to drought was most impressive and included a mix of cover crops, direct drilling, spring cropping and the re-introduction of livestock.”
Second prize was awarded to Iain Tolhurst, a horticulture business from Berkshire. Iain impressed the judges with his impressive knowledge and understanding of how to maximise soil biodiversity and his innovative use of composts and green manures within his rotation as well as his agro-forestry system. Whilst the business has been established over 40 years, it continues to innovate, push boundaries and educate others.
The accolade of third prize was taken by Jeremy and Heather Dale, dairy farmers from Shropshire. This herd which is run on a spring calving system, and is certified as 100% pasture fed is achieving fantastic grassland management through attention to detail and making the use of data. All data on grass growth and cow performance is logged and costs of production are scrutinised regularly. This is all possible, by ensuring that the soil conditions are right to grow quality grass that supports this production system.
Jonathan Smith, FCCT Director said “As this was the first time we've run the competition, we didn't expect so many good entries. We appreciate the effort all entrants put in to this and hope to run the competition again later this year. These farmers and growers are demonstrating the benefits of building soil organic matter – healthier, more productive soils, increased carbon sequestration and better yields. It's a win-win approach, and a message we would like to spread far and wide.”
The top three farmers will all receive prizes of fertility building or green manure seed from the sponsor Cotswold Seeds.
Another four farmers were shortlisted, Nigel Griffiths, David Miller, David Walston and David White who were felt to have shown exemplary soil management and were running innovative production systems.
The top three farmers will also all be hosting farm walks, where their prizes will be presented and there will be a chance to see, understand and dig a bit deeper into what they are doing. The walk at Clive Bailye’s farm will be taking place on the 13th June, from 6 – 8.30pm. Further details are available on the FCCT website.
· The Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (FCCT) is a not for profit organisation encouraging farmers and growers to reduce their carbon emissions and increase Carbon sequestration. It is run by farmers for farmers.www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk
· The Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit was established in 2009 to raise awareness of Greenhouse Gas emissions within the agricultural industry and also to provide practical responses that any farmer, whatever their farming system, could put into place on their farm.
· Innovation for Agriculture is a consortium of English Agricultural Societies that delivers technical information and events for farmers. Soil organic matter and soil health is a key theme and the focus of much of our current activity.
· The competition is kindly being sponsored by Cotswold Seeds
· For more information on the farm walks please visit the FCCT website at www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk
The aims of the competition was to find farmers and growers who are engaged and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supports productive agriculture, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and builds soil organic matter and carbon.
Why is it important?
Soil underpins the entire farm system. A healthy well - managed and biologically active soil will support productive and healthy crops and pasture, which in turn supports a profitable and resilient farming system.
A soil that accumulates organic matter will sequester carbon, reduce diffuse pollution, be productive and increase profitability, a win, win, win situation.
An underground revolution
There are farmers from a range of enterprises, locations and scales that are switched on in terms of soil management and are pushing the boundaries and the science forward. It is these farmers that this campaign is aiming to champion.
FCCT - FCCT are passionate about highlighting the skills and knowledge used to manage farm soils effectively to meet the demands of modern farming systems which is essential to the future sustainability of agriculture.
Innovation for Agriculture - Innovation for Agriculture is a consortium of 15 Agricultural Societies who are developing a technical program for farmers. Their work to date has focussed on Precision Livestock Farming and Soil Organic Matter and they are delighted to be a partner in the Soil Farmer of the Year competition.
As well as FCCT and IFA we also had a team of judges who assessed entries including top scientists from North Wyke Research and the James Hutton Institute as well as farmers and partner members.